How the expungement process works
How much does an expungement cost?
Unfortunately, the expungement law requires you to pay processing fees and costs to many different agencies and can be somewhat expensive. The filing costs of expungements generally range from $550 to over $700, depending on whether a DWI is involved and whether a prior conviction must be converted to an 893/894 acquittal before the expungement can go through. Clerks of court often require a separate petition (and separate costs) to process multiple charges from multiple dates. The law is currently unclear whether this is required in all cases. The costs must be paid in full at the same time you file the petition for expungement because several agencies will receive a portion of this cost. They are as follows:
$250 to the Louisiana State Police, Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information;
$200 to the clerk of court;
$50 to the parish district attorney’s office; and
$50 to the parish sheriff’s office.
If an 893/894 affidavit is required, there are additional fees:
$60 to the clerk of court; and
$50 to the parish sheriff’s office.
If a DWI is involved, there are more additional fees:
$50 to the Louisiana Department of Motor Vehicles
$50 (additional) to the Louisiana Department of Motor Vehicle, if there is an 894.
Will I get my filing fees back if my expungement is not granted?
No. The Louisiana expungement law was recently amended to require prepayment to the clerk for all court and processing fees when you file your petition for expungement, and to provide that those fees are no longer refundable.
Do I have to hire a lawyer to get an expungement?
No. Uniform rules and forms have been developed by the Louisiana legislature to assist you in filing your own expungement. This information is not a substitute for legal advice, however, and clerks of court are prohibited by law from offering legal advice. The Louisiana expungement process can be complex, and the choices you make while pursuing an expungement can have unforeseen consequences. While an attorney is not required to obtain an expungement, the help of an attorney who has criminal expungement experience is recommended and may protect your rights, give you additional options, or obtain an expungement for you in circumstances where you would be unable to get one yourself. A qualified Louisiana expungement lawyer may also help to understand whether you are entitled to an expungement at all and save you the non-refundable court costs and fees, if you will not qualify for an expungement, or if your chances of success are slim.
How long does the whole expungement process take?
It varies widely. The Louisiana expungement law allows sixty days from the date of filing for all the agencies to respond to your request for an expungement. Thereafter, it may take an additional thirty days to obtain a hearing date, if necessary. After the court rules on the hearing or grants the motion for expungement, it may take more than a month for the Louisiana State Police to mail you a Certificate of Compliance. There is currently a five-month backlog of expungement orders being processed by the state police. A reasonable expectation for an uncomplicated expungement would be around 6 to 8 months from the time you provide all of the required information to your lawyer, all of the costs, and all of the attorneys’ fees. Some more-complicated expungements can take a year, or more. It is hoped that the state police will add staff to its compliance division to work through the serious backlog of expungements awaiting processing, but that is uncertain at this point.
Are there any people, state agencies, or boards that will still be able to see my record after I expunge it?
Yes. According to the Louisiana expungement law, the people and entities which will still have access to your expunged Louisiana criminal record are: you and your lawyer; some prosecutors, police, and criminal justice agencies, but only if they shall request that information in writing, certifying that it is for investigating, prosecuting, or enforcing criminal law, or for other statutorily defined law enforcement or administrative duties (such as weapons checks or “concealed carry” permits), or for the requirements of sex offender registration and notification; others, with court order, after a contradictory hearing and for good cause shown; confidentially, the Office of Financial Institutions, if you apply for a supervisory position with a banking institution; confidentially, the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners, if you are a physician or are applying; confidentially, the Louisiana State Board of Nursing, if you are a nurse or are applying; confidentially, the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry, if you are a dentist or are applying; confidentially, the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, if you are a psychologist or are applying; confidentially, the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy, if you are a pharmacist or are applying; confidentially, the Louisiana State Board of Social Work Examiners, if you are a social worker or are applying; confidentially, the Emergency Medical Services Certification Commission, if you are an EMT or are applying; confidentially, the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board, Office of Disciplinary Counsel, if you are an attorney; confidentially, the Louisiana Supreme Court Committee on Bar Admissions, if you are applying for a law license; confidentially, the Louisiana Department of Insurance, if you are applying for supervisory position with and insurance company; confidentially, the Louisiana Licensed Professional Counselors Board of Examiners, if you are an LPC or are applying; confidentially, any entity requesting a record pursuant to LSA-R.S. 15:587.1, if you have applied for a position requiring care and supervision of children. Any person or entity above who fails to maintain the confidentiality of your records is subject to contempt of court sanctions.
Why would I want an expungement?
Employment is the most-often cited answer. After an expungement in Louisiana, when you apply for a job, you are permitted to say on your application that you have never been arrested or convicted for any charge that has been expunged. Further, because the arrest and conviction have been sealed and made confidential, employers and background check companies will not have access to your expunged record and cannot be informed of it. There are civil penalties that you can impose against private companies for reporting a criminal history when the record has been expunged, if the company has knowledge of the expungement.
Gun Rights are a common reason people seek an expungement, though the law is still unclear on the practical effects of expungement on weapons rights restoration. In 2016, the legislature modified the law so that reformed felons may receive a concealed weapons permit if they had a non-violent, non-sexual prior conviction that was expunged, was sentenced under Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 893, and is more than 10 years past the completion of sentence.
Moreover, those same changes in the law were intended by the legislature to make Louisiana law conform with federal laws permitting reformed felons to pass a federal background check to purchase a weapon. This is a developing area of law, and the results are not certain yet.
Banking companies, too, will often check criminal history when evaluating you for a loan, so an expungement can shield that information from an entity deciding whether to issue you credit. While a conviction generally plays no direct part in your credit score, there are circumstances where, as part of the sentence, restitution is owed to a victim or others. Those debts, judgments, or delinquencies can be reported to credit agencies.
Like banks, insurance companies sometimes review criminal history in deciding whether to issue certain types of insurance, or how much to charge you for that insurance. Expunging a record of arrest or conviction may make you eligible for certain types of insurance coverage otherwise unavailable, or it may reduce what you pay for that insurance.
Many state licensing and credentialing boards review applicants’ criminal histories when deciding whether to issue a license or certificate. In Louisiana, unless the licensing agency is one of those specifically empowered within the expungement statute to obtain criminal history, those agencies or boards will not have access to your expunged records.
Numerous family matters are affected by a criminal conviction. When asking for child custody, adoption, curatorship, tutorship, executive powers over estates, and so forth, background checks are frequently used in assessing risk or suitability for those legal designations. An expungement will shield your confidential criminal information from review, unless there is a court order to open the record.
Access to public housing or “Section 8” housing allowances can be denied if you have a criminal conviction or even a recent arrest. Federal law permits housing authorities to evaluate housing applicants’ criminal histories to determine suitability for this federal assistance. Expunging your record can shield this information from a housing authority. Similarly, private landlords often request background histories of applicants and tenants. Because private landlords may refuse to rent to you because of a criminal history, or even evict you if they discover criminal history, an expungement will shield that information from private individuals seeking to obtain it.
Like federal housing entitlements, your federal student loans and grants can be affected by a criminal conviction. An expungement is a factor that can be considered when determining whether to waive ineligibility or extend eligibility for those forms of financial assistance.
College admissions can be affected by criminal convictions. As many as 60% of colleges and universities review criminal history when evaluating an applicant. While the existence of a criminal history may-or-may-not prevent you from being accepted, it is a factor that the university is permitted to consider. An expungement will shield that record from those seeking to acquire it.
Many prestigious professional organizations evaluate potential members’ criminal histories before offering membership. An expungement can prevent those organizations from obtaining your criminal record. Even some volunteer organizations evaluate criminal history. For some kinds of charitable, sports, coaching, intramural, or volunteer work, a particular institution or group may not allow you to work with them or to volunteer at their organization if you have a criminal record. Expungements can keep these private organizations from having access to your criminal history.
Finally, one of the most satisfying reasons you might expunge a criminal record is simply to find peace of mind—to put the past behind you and to move forward without the shadow of a prior mistake forever haunting your present and future prospects. Working people often find it hard to cope with employment, colleagues, or continuing with jobs after a conviction. You may fear you could be terminated, and future employers may refuse to employ you once they find out about a criminal record. The social stigma of a criminal history is daunting and can limit the options of your entire family when you or a member of your family has a criminal conviction. Neighbors and new acquaintances often treat those with criminal histories with suspicion or guarded reserve. While expunging a record cannot erase or “undo” your past history, it obviously can bring a great sense of relief, closure, and finality to a painful episode in the past. Expunging the criminal records of your children can aid in placing them on an equal footing with their contemporaries, and expunging your own criminal history can help in creating a more stable and satisfying home, social, and professional life. In short, expungement is an investment in closure and redemption that can greatly improve the quality of your life and those who depend on you.